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Thursday, April 30, 2009

Anderson's $10 Million Lawsuit Proceeds Against Corrupt Discipline Committee

Staff Attorney's $10 Million Lawsuit Proceeds Against Discipline Committee
The New York Law Journal by Daniel Wise - April 30, 2009

An attorney who was fired after working six years as a staff lawyer at the 1st Department's disciplinary committee may proceed with a $10 million damage lawsuit that she was discharged in retaliation for claiming her superiors were "whitewashing" cases, a Southern District of New York judge ruled Monday. However, the judge, Shira A. Scheindlin, threw out the attorney's claim that she had been fired because she is black, in ruling on a summary judgment motion brought by the Office of Court Administration. Christine C. Anderson contended that her June 2007 firing was in retaliation for complaints she made to her superiors at the disciplinary committee that at least nine cases had been handled too leniently because the lawyers being investigated were politically connected or were represented by attorneys who had previously worked for the committee (NYLJ, Oct. 30, 2007). Anderson, who was born in Jamaica, also claimed the committee had discriminated against her on the basis of race, color and national origin.

The disciplinary committee operates under the aegis of the Appellate Division, First Department, and Anderson sued the OCA; Thomas J. Cahill, the committee's chief counsel during the years Anderson was employed there; Sherry K. Cohen, who became deputy chief counsel and Anderson's supervisor in 2003; and David Spokoney, the 1st Department's deputy clerk. With the exception of Cahill, who resigned in 2007 after 10 years in the post (NYLJ, July 23, 2007), the other individual defendants remain at their jobs. The 1st Department's disciplinary committee polices the conduct of attorneys practicing in Manhattan and the Bronx.

In allowing Anderson to proceed with her retaliation claim, Scheindlin found that her contention that the committee had "whitewashed" as many as nine cases touched upon a subject of public concern and was protected under the First Amendment. A jury will have to determine whether the defendants fired Anderson because of the concerns she raised or because she had been insubordinate, as the defendants contend, Justice Scheindlin concluded in Anderson v. State of New York, 07 Civ. 9599. Scheindlin noted that Anderson in a "host" of e-mails had made "evident" her "hostility toward" and "refusal to cooperate" with Cohen, her supervisor. Nonetheless, Scheindlin ruled that "a reasonable jury could find that the defendants refused to remove Cohen as Anderson's supervisor so they could use Anderson's inevitable resistance to Cohen's continuing supervision as a pretext for firing her."


In concluding that Anderson's complaints touch upon matters of public concern, Scheindlin rejected OCA's argument that Garcetti v. Ceballos, 547 U.S. 410, a 2006 U.S. Supreme Court precedent, was controlling. The attorney general's office, which represented OCA and the individual defendants, contended that Anderson's First Amendment claim must be rejected under the authority of Garcetti. The Supreme Court rejected a First Amendment retaliation claim brought by a deputy district attorney who claimed he was fired because he recommended the dismissal of a case. The prosecutor had urged dismissal because a flawed affidavit was used to obtain a search warrant. Rather than raising an issue of public concern, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote in a 5-4 ruling in Garcetti that the prosecutor was acting as a public employee with regard to an internal matter when he "fulfill[ed] a responsibility to advise his supervisor about how best to proceed with a pending case." Scheindlin found Anderson's case to be "patently distinguishable" from Garcetti. "The prosecutor in Garcetti spoke about a single case pending in his office," she wrote, while "Ms. Anderson spoke out about systemic problems at the [disciplinary committee], thereby making her speech protected." "Where a public employee's speech concerns a government agency's breach of trust, as it does here," she wrote, "the speech relates to more than a mere personal grievance and therefore falls outside Garcetti's restrictions."


Scheindlin found that none of the three remarks that Anderson alleged Cohen made had any bearing on her bias claims. One alleged remark -- that the homeless are "smelly" -- did not reflect upon a group protected by federal civil rights laws, the judge ruled. The other two alleged comments -- that there are too many blacks in the subway and blacks were moving near Cohen's vacation home -- were not "directed" at Anderson, "unrelated to her discharge" and allegedly uttered about one year before her firing, Scheindlin wrote.

Anderson also presented deposition testimony from three present or former minority employees who had expressed views that Cohen was biased. Two of those witnesses, one of whom was a lawyer, expressed views that reflected subjective beliefs that are "devoid of any factual circumstances linking Cohen to any discriminatory conduct," Scheindlin found. The testimony of the third minority witness, Kenneth Van Lew, an investigator who left the office at the time of his deposition, provided "concrete instances in which he believes he was treated less favorably by Cohen than similarly situated Caucasian employees," Scheindlin wrote. But even though Van Lew's testimony provided "some credible evidence" of discrimination, the bias-based claims had to be dismissed, Scheindlin concluded, because "there is simply no evidence" that any alleged bias had tainted the decision of the ultimate deciding authority, the 1st Department's justices serving upon the court's Departmental Disciplinary Liaison Committee. The state defendants were represented by Assistant Attorneys General Lee A. Alderstein and Wesley E. Bauman. The attorney general's office did not respond to a request for comment. Anderson was represented by John A. Beranbaum of Beranbaum Menken Ben-Asher & Bierman.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Administrative Judge Francis A. Nicolai Stepping Down

9th Judicial District Administrative Judge Francis A. Nicolai will be stepping down.....

New York Law Journal, News in Brief by Daniel Wise (April 30, 2009): "Two Judges Appointed To Appellate Terms" Two appointments to different branches of the Appellate Term were announced yesterday by the Office of Court Administration. Francis A. Nicolai, who has been the administrative judge for the five counties in the Ninth Judicial District since 1999, will take over as presiding justice for the Appellate Term that hears appeals from city and district courts on Long Island and five counties north of New York City: Westchester, Putnam, Dutchess, Orage and Rockland. Justice Nicolai, 69 will succeed Justice Kenneth W. Rudolph, who will retire on June 30. Also yesterday, Justice Martin Shulman, who has been a judge since 1995 and an elected Supreme Court justice since 2006, was appointed to the Appellate Term in Manhattan, which hears appeals from Civil and Criminal courts in that borough and the Bronx. Justice Shulman, 53, fills one of two vacancies on the five-judge court. Justice William P. McCooe retired at the end of 2007, and Justice William J. Davis retired at the end of 2008. 

The Sordid Nicholai History:

Anderson Advances, Federal Jury to Hear 'Ethics' Corruption, Whitewashing


The Corruption of New York's 'Ethics' Oversight Going Public

A New York Federal District Court Judge, the Hon. Shira A. Scheindlin, ruled Monday that a federal jury, and  importantly the public, will hear testimony into exactly how corrupt the Manhattan attorney 'ethics' department is and how serious ethics complaints for favored attorneys have been improperly whitewashed.  Equally alarming is the expected testimony that will shed light into the systemic corruption within the attorney and judicial ethics oversight agencies. The widespread allegations of retaliation within and about New York's court system will be provided a proper public forum upon which accountability may be restored. 

The New York Office of Court Administration rattling federal lawsuit was filed October 26, 2007, in The United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. The allegations by Christine Anderson, a respected insider, revealed a previously hidden look into the systemic corruption within the statewide court system and, most horrifically, concerns the very body charged with overseeing ethics and integrity within the state's courts was supervised by a small group of corrupt individuals.  The named defendants originally included The State of New York's Office of Court Administration (OCA), and the Hon. John Buckley, Thomas J. Cahill, Sherry K. Cohen, Catherine O'Hagen Wolfe and David Spokony- all senior level state employees involved with the 1st Judicial Department's Departmental Disciplinary Committee (DDC), which is charged with overseeing the ethics of attorneys in The Bronx and Manhattan. The papers filed in federal court included, "Plaintiff requests the appointment of a federal monitor to oversee the day-to-day operations of the DDC for an indefinite period."

Alan Friedberg, formerly the deputy counsel at the statewide Commission on Judicial Conduct, now heads the DDC. Mr. Friedberg has himself become a lighting rod for corruption allegations as has his former associate Robert Tembeckjian who runs the statewide judicial 'ethics' group as Chief Counsel.

An October 30, 2007 article in the New York Law Journal by Daniel Wise described Anderson's firing, "... in retaliation for complaining that her superiors had engaged in a 'pattern and practice of whitewashing and routinely dismissing complaints against certain select attorneys'" and noted that Christine C. Anderson had worked for the disciplinary committee for six years. The article revealed that Ms. Anderson asked that a federal monitor be appointed to oversee the disciplinary committee's operations, and explained that, "In 2005, Ms. Anderson charged in her complaint, she discovered that the chief counsel of the disciplinary committee, Thomas J. Cahill, and Sherry K. Cohen, its first deputy counsel, were "apparently engaged in a 'numbers game' and practice" of "selectively" dismissing complaints against attorneys for their "own personal and political reasons." Sherry Cohen was also accused of digging her nails into Anderson's hands, an act that appartently led to Cohen's attendance in an appropriate program.
"The first instance of a 'whitewash' alleged in Ms. Anderson's complaint occurred 'in or about 2003' in 'a highly sensitive investigation,' which had uncovered 'overwhelming concrete evidence of misconduct' by an attorney, Ms. Anderson alleged. The matter was dropped despite her recommendation that a formal complaint be filed against the lawyer, Ms. Anderson alleged.
She also charged that a large file she had amassed containing "indisputable evidence of misconduct" had been 'gutted.'" A second incident involved Sherry Cohen's whitewashing of a  complaint because, "'she had a prior working relationship' with the attorney for the lawyer under investigation and sought to avoid having his client formally charged 'as a favor.'"


Tuesday, April 28, 2009

'Officer of the Court' Marc Dreier to Plead Guilty

Dreier to Plead Guilty at May 11 Appearance, Attorney Says
The New York Law Journal by Mark Hamblett - April 28, 2009

Marc S. Dreier intends to plead guilty on May 11 to every count in the indictment charging him with stealing hundreds of millions of dollars from hedge funds and individuals, his attorney said yesterday.  Defense attorney Gerald L. Shargel told Southern District Judge Jed S. Rakoff that his client will plead to one count of conspiracy to commit securities fraud and wire fraud, one count of securities fraud, five counts of wire fraud and one count of money laundering. Each count carries a potential sentence of 20 years in prison except for the conspiracy count, which carries a five-year term.  Judge Rakoff denied without prejudice a motion by Mr. Shargel to dismiss the securities fraud count and a portion of the conspiracy count dealing with securities. Mr. Shargel said there was a legal argument to be made on whether the phony promissory notes sold by Mr. Dreier were, in fact, securities. Southern District Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Streeter told the judge he had more than enough ammunition to show that they were in fact securities and that the list of people Mr. Dreier was trying to sell the notes to was far larger than indicated in the indictment and included unsophisticated investors.  "The defendant actually held parties at which he pitched the notes," Mr. Streeter said, adding that he spoke to one investor who gave Mr. Dreier $1 million "and he didn't even actually understand who the issuer was."

Mr. Dreier, the founder and sole equity partner of the now defunct 250-attorney Dreier LLP, had been widely expected to plead guilty to some or all of the charges he faces in connection with a scheme in which he peddled more than $700 million in phony real estate and pension fund notes. To keep his scheme going, he paid back approximately $300 million to people who bought the bogus notes. He is charged with selling notes to at least 13 different funds and three individuals between 2004 and 2008, with the purchase price wired to an attorney trust fund maintained by his firm.  Mr. Dreier was arrested on Dec. 7 upon his return from Toronto, where he had been taken into custody for pretending to be an executive with the Ontario Teachers Pension Fund who was pitching pension fund notes to a hedge fund. He has been free on bail but confined to his midtown apartment since Feb. 13.  Mr. Dreier, who was present at yesterday's hearing, is effectively asking for the mercy of the court in deciding to plead guilty. Asked after the hearing why Mr. Dreier wanted to plead guilty instead of going to trial, Mr. Shargel said, "He wants to end it because he accepts responsibility for what he did." Mr. Shargel also said Mr. Dreier has accomplished much in his life, but he "simply went off the tracks . . . I'm sure no one will ever know why he did what he did."

Monday, April 27, 2009

New York's Prosecutor Envy, Expanding

Durbin: Fitzgerald will stay as prosecutor
The Chicago Tribune - April 27, 2009 

Corruption-busting prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald has agreed to stay on as U.S. attorney in Chicago, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin said today. "We are fortunate Patrick Fitzgerald has agreed to continue his service as U.S. attorney in the Northern District," Durbin said in a letter to Illinois congressmen. The announcement came as no surprise, with Durbin saying last November he would recommend another term if Fitzgerald wanted it. In nominating a U.S. attorney, the president traditionally chooses a candidate recommended by the senior senator of the president's party. Fitzgerald got the job on the recommendation of former U.S. Sen. Peter Fitzgerald -- a Republican and no relation. But his track record of bringing corruption cases against former Govs. George Ryan, Rod Blagojevich and other political figures has made him popular with many Democrats and independents as well. Fitzgerald has always said that he is a political independent. In his letter, Durbin also laid out a plan guaranteed to be of intense interest to Illinois attorneys on how he will select candidates for federal judgeships.

He said he has established a bipartisan screening committee in each of the three federal judicial districts in the state. Similar committees were set up under the presidency of Jimmy Carter, he said. He said the committees would review applications and make recommendations for three U.S. District Court vacancies in the Northern District, the U.S. attorney positions in the Central and Southern Districts, and the U.S. marshal positions in all three districts. Former congressman and federal appeals Judge Abner Mikva was named chairman of the Chicago-based committee. James Potter was named chairman in the Central District ,and Sheila Simon, daughter of the late U.S. Sen. Paul Simon, was named chairman in the Southern District. Durbin said he would ask the committees for several recommendations for each position. "Upon receiving these recommendations, I will review them, conduct interviews and -- in consultation with the junior senator from Illinois and other members of the Illinois congressional delegation -- submit names to President Obama who will make the final decisions on nominees," he said. The junior senator is Democrat Roland Burris.

The New Brown Bag: Judge Arrested in Alleged Bond Scheme

La. judge arrested in alleged bond scheme
United Press International - April 25, 2009

NEW ORLEANS, April 25 (UPI) -- A Louisiana judge has been arrested on corruption charges alleging he accepted bribes to let detainees go free on bond, federal officials say. State District Judge Wayne Cresap of St. Bernard Parish, La., was being held in custody late Friday after being arrested as part of an ongoing corruption investigation by the FBI and U.S. attorney's office, the (New Orleans) Times-Picayune reported. The U.S. Attorney's office issued a news release alleging the judge "entered into an illegal agreement with unnamed lawyers in which Cresap accepted money to convert secured bonds to unsecured personal surety bonds, thereby allowing the releases of charged individuals on signatures, and without collateral security." The prosecutor said the bond arrangement "deprived citizens of (Cresap's) honest services in the course of his officials duties." The Times-Picayune said Cresap, 62, of Poydras, La., has held his current position in Louisiana's 34th Judicial District since October 1999, when he defeated Gregory Noto in a runoff election to fill the term of Judge Melvyn Perez, who had died in office.

Department of Justice Press Release
For Immediate Release
April 24, 2009 United States Attorney's Office
Eastern District of Louisiana
Contact: (504) 680-3000

St. Bernard Parish Judge Arrested on Federal Corruption Charges

NEW ORLEANS, LA—WAYNE G. CRESAP, an elected judge of the 34th Judicial District Court for the Parish of St. Bernard, was arrested this afternoon by Special Agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, pursuant to a warrant of arrest and complaint charging him with conspiracy to commit wire fraud by depriving citizens of his honest services in the course of his official duties, announced U. S. Attorney Jim Letten and Special Agent in Charge David Welker of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, New Orleans Division. After his arrest, CRESAP appeared before a United States District Court Judge and presently remains in federal custody pending a bail hearing at a later date. According to allegations contained in the affidavit in support of the complaint (attached), CRESAP entered into a illegal agreement with unnamed lawyers, in which CRESAP accepted money to convert secured bonds to unsecured personal surety bonds, thereby allowing the releases of charged individuals on signatures, and without collateral security. If indicted and convicted of the conspiracy offense as charged, CRESAP faces a maximum prison term of five (5) years, a $250,000 fine, as well as possible restitution and supervised release. CRESAP is presently on a leave of absence from the Court and is therefore not currently sitting on the bench or ruling on judicial matters. No further details are available for release at this time. FBI Special Agent in Charge Welker and U. S. Attorney Letten commend the hard work, commitment and partnership of the Special Agents, prosecutors and others who have assisted with this and related corruption investigations, and confirm that this investigation continues. The FBI and U. S. Attorney extend their gratitude for the substantial assistance and information provided by the New Orleans Metropolitan Crime Commission. The investigation is being handled by Special Agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation of the New Orleans Division. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Brian Marcelle and Richard Pickens.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Judge Voices Regrets Over Selling His Soul

Federal Judge Regrets Selling His Soul
Connecting the Dots of a Judiciary for Sale or Rent
by Franklin N. Brady - April 26, 2009

Federal District Judge Jay S. Bybee is apparently proud of his service on the the federal bench, but no so regarding his prior position as head of the Office of Legal Counsel and his involvement there in the recently made public "torture memos." The following articles explain how connected individuals have arranged protection for each other-- actual, past and anticipated. The "torture memos" scandal is but one example of a systemic national problem of failed  oversight.  Here we see improper actions protectively whitewashed by the government, the judiciary and the attorney bar- each with hands dirtier than the other. The cycle continues.  Is there a solution?

4 articles follow:
  • Amind Outcry on Memo, Signer's Private Regret (The Washington Post)
  • Judge Bybee Lands Pro-Bono Help From Latham's Mahoney (The Wall Street Journal)
  • White House Release of Interrogation Memos May Turn Up Heat on 9th Circuit Judge (The Recorder)
  • Ex-Latham Partner Pleads to Fraud Charge (The New York Law Journal)
Amid Outcry on Memo, Signer's Private Regret
Friends Say Judge Wasn't Proud of Outcome
The Washington Post by Karl Vick - April 25, 2009

LAS VEGAS, NV -- On a Saturday night in May last year, Jay S. Bybee hosted dinner for 35 at a Las Vegas restaurant. The young people seated around him had served as his law clerks in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, the post Bybee had assumed after two turbulent years at the Justice Department, where as head of the Office of Legal Counsel he signed the legal justifications for harsh interrogations that have become known as the "torture memos." Five years along in his new life as a federal judge, Bybee gathered the lawyers and their dates for a reunion, telling them he was proud of the legal work they had together produced. And then, according to two of his guests, Bybee added that he wished he could say the same about his previous position. It was, in the private room of a public restaurant, the kind of joyless judgment that some friends and associates say the jurist arrived at well before the public release of four additional memos last week and the resulting uproar that has engulfed Washington. One of the documents, dated Aug. 1, 2002, offered a helpfully narrow definition of torture to the CIA and soon became known as the "Bybee memo," because it bore his signature.

"I've heard him express regret at the contents of the memo," said a fellow legal scholar and longtime friend, who spoke on the condition of anonymity while offering remarks that might appear as "piling on." "I've heard him express regret that the memo was misused. I've heard him express regret at the lack of context -- of the enormous pressure and the enormous time pressure that he was under. And anyone would have regrets simply because of the notoriety." That notoriety worsened this week as the documents -- detailing the acceptable application of waterboarding, "walling," sleep deprivation and other procedures the Bush administration called "enhanced interrogation methods" -- prompted calls from human rights advocates and other critics for criminal investigations of the government lawyers who generated them.

Of the three former Justice Department lawyers associated with the memos, the public's attention has focused particularly harshly on Bybee because of his position as a sitting federal judge; John C. Yoo, who largely wrote the Bybee memo, returned to academic life, and Steven G. Bradbury, who signed three memos, resumed private practice at the end of the Bush administration. Democratic lawmakers, human rights groups and others have called for Congress to impeach Bybee, complaining that his 2003 Senate confirmation came more than a year before his role in the memos was known. "If the Bush administration and Mr. Bybee had told the truth, he never would have been confirmed," said Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), adding that "the decent and honorable thing for him to do would be to resign." Democrats blocked the nomination of former Defense Department general counsel William J. Haynes II to the Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit because of his role in supporting aggressive interrogations of military detainees. Haynes withdrew his nomination in 2007.

The Justice Department withdrew the memos in the closing days of the Bush administration, and as its Office of Professional Responsibility investigates their origin -- and Congress, the American Bar Association and the United Nations mull inquiries -- Bybee is represented by Maureen E. Mahoney, a star litigator at Latham & Watkins. The aura of regret described by Bybee's friends and associates stands in contrast to the demeanor of Yoo, who served under Bybee and has maintained both a public profile and the fearless confidence that informed the memos. "Al-Qaeda in the months after 9/11 was going to carry out follow-on attacks on our country and its citizens," Yoo said Tuesday at a conference at Chapman University, the Orange, Calif., campus where he is teaching this spring. Bybee left the issue behind in 2003, returning to the gated suburban Las Vegas subdivision where he lives with his wife and children. He has said nothing publicly about the documents, a silence associates attributed to the restrictions on a sitting appellate judge, the possible advice of counsel and his own manner.

"Judge Bybee tends to be a very private person, even when he's not in the newspapers," said Ann S. Jarrell, law librarian in the downtown U.S. courthouse where he keeps his chambers. Neither Bybee nor Mahoney would comment for this article. Still, in the years since the original Bybee memo was made public, his misgivings appeared evident to some in his immediate circle. "On the primary memo, that legitimated and defined torture, he just felt it got away from him," said the fellow scholar. "What I understand that to mean is, any lawyer, when he or she is writing about something very complicated, very layered, sometimes you can get it all out there and if you're not careful, you end up in a place you never intended to go. I think for someone like Jay, who's a formalist and a textualist, that's a particular danger."

Tuan Samahon, a former clerk who recalled Bybee's remarks at the reunion dinner, said in an e-mail that the judge defended the legal reasoning behind the memos but not the policy decision. Bybee was disappointed by what was done to prisoners, saying that "the spirit of liberty has left the republic," Samahon said. "Jay would be the sort of lawyer who would say, 'Look, I'll give you the legal advice, but it's up to someone else to make the policy decision whether you implement it,' " said Randall Guynn, who roomed with Bybee at Brigham Young University and remains close. Jameel Jaffer, director of the ACLU's National Security Project, which filed a freedom-of-information request regarding the latest memos, said any distinction Bybee may make between the logic of the memos and their application in secret prisons is theoretical at best. "I don't think the August 2002 memos reflect serious attempts to grapple in good faith with the law," Jaffer said. "These are documents that are meant to justify predetermined ends. They're not objective legal memos at all."

Neither Guynn nor his brother, Steve, who also roomed with Bybee, recalled the judge distancing himself from the memos. But in the years since the first memo became public, Bybee left that sense with some. "I got the impression that he was not pleased with that bit of scholarship," said an associate who asked not be identified sharing private conversations. "I don't know that he 'owned it.' . . . The way he put it was: He was head of the OLC, and it was written, and he was not pleased with it." "But he signed it," said Chris Blakesley, a friend and fellow professor at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas Boyd School of Law who was outraged by the memo, which was leaked in May 2004. "The very evening it came out, we were going to dinner, and I told him how awful it was and I hoped he got a chance to repudiate it," Blakesley said. "He didn't say very much, and it was kind of awkward because our families were there." "Getting to the personal side of him, my sense is he would love to repudiate them all," Blakesley said. "Which gets to: Why'd you sign it?"

Bybee had worked in Washington before. During the 1980s he was in the civil and legal policy divisions at the Justice Department, then served as associate White House counsel under President George H.W. Bush. During the Clinton years, he went from Louisiana State to UNLV, whose law school was so new it was located in an old elementary school across Tropicana Avenue. Through the thin walls of the annex, constitutional law specialist Tom McAffee would hear Bybee working the phones. But he struck none of his colleagues as an ideologue. "I have colleagues with reputations as indoctrinators," said McAffee, who has known Bybee 30 years and co-authored a book with him on the Ninth and 10th amendments. "Bybee was the opposite end of the spectrum. He was more interested in getting people to think about things."

Students enjoyed Bybee, voting him professor of the year in 2000. "He was 'The Great Professor,' " said Briant S. Platt, who worked as his research assistant and later clerk. "He was quite self-deprecating: 'You get a root beer float in me and I'm a lot of fun.' " Bybee still occasionally teaches a course at UNLV on separation of powers. "The whole idea that the Constitution is based on a kind of wariness of mankind's tendency to grab power, that is an idea I got from Jay," McAffee said. "So the whole idea of uninhibited executive power, from him, does seem passing strange." Bybee's friends said he never sought the job at the Office of Legal Counsel. The reason he went back to Washington, Guynn said, was to interview with then-White House counsel Alberto R. Gonzales for a slot that would be opening on the 9th Circuit when a judge retired. The opening was not yet there, however, so Gonzales asked, "Would you be willing to take a position at the OLC first?" Guynn said. Being unable to answer for what followed is "very frustrating," said Guynn, who spoke to Bybee before agreeing to be interviewed. "If they end up having hearings," he said, "they're going to have a very difficult time trying to square him with their judgments about the memo." Staff writer Ashley Surdin contributed to this report.

Judge Bybee Lands Pro-Bono Help From Latham’s Mahoney

The Wall Street Journal by Ashby Jones - April 17, 2009

Ninth Circuit judge Jay Bybee got some good news yesterday, when the Attorney General in Spain rejected prosecutors’ decision to bring criminal charges against him and five other former Bush officials over the treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. But his celebration was likely dampened a bit with word that the Justice Department had released detailed memos penned by former Bush administration lawyers describing the harsh techniques used by CIA operatives on detainees from 2002 to 2005. Bybee, then an assistant attorney general, authored one of the memos. Click here for coverage from the NYT, here for the documents, courtesy of the NYT, and here for the WaPo’s take.

Might there be ramifications for Jay Bybee, whose memo sanctions waterboarding because it does not inflict “prolonged mental harm?” An article today in the Recorder examines the issue. “As we understand it,” Bybee wrote, “when the waterboard is used, the subject’s body responds as if the subject were drowning — even though the subject may be well aware that he is in fact not drowning. You have informed us that this procedure does not inflict actual physical harm. Thus, although the subject may experience the fear or panic associated with the feeling of drowning, the waterboard does not inflict physical pain.” The Obama Administration assured CIA employees Thursday that they would not be prosecuted, but the White House has offered no cover to Bybee or other government lawyers. So for now, Bybee is on his own. The good news, however, he’s got a nationally recognized lawyer on his side, Latham & Watkins’s Maureen Mahoney, who’s handling the case pro bono. In an e-mail Thursday, Mahoney said Bybee has recused himself from Latham cases, but offered no further comment on his case.


White House Release of Interrogation Memos May Turn Up Heat on 9th Circuit Judge
The California Recorder by Dan Levine - April 17, 2009

The Obama administration released graphic legal memos Thursday that authorized specific interrogation techniques against CIA-held prisoners in the war on terror. Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Jay Bybee signed one of those memos on Aug. 1, 2002, when he worked as chief of the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel. The substance of the document -- which allows waterboarding because it does not inflict "prolonged mental harm" -- had been reported. But the memo's details may well ramp up public pressure on President Obama to take action against Bush administration lawyers, who already face an internal Justice probe and possible indictment by Spanish authorities. While the White House assured CIA employees Thursday that they would not be prosecuted, the president offered no cover to Bybee or other government lawyers. And where the Justice Department will represent any CIA employee in any U.S. litigation -- or appoint a lawyer to deal with proceedings "in any international or foreign tribunal" -- the Obama administration's promise also did not extend to former Bush administration lawyers.

Latham & Watkins partner Maureen Mahoney represents Bybee. Mahoney, a nationally recognized advocate, is working pro bono, according to one person familiar with the matter. Such gratis fee arrangements are common for government employees under investigation by the Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility, say several lawyers who have represented clients in similar situations. Part of the reason these attorneys cite for waiving their fee -- beyond public service -- is the limited resources of the clients. Bybee -- a longtime government lawyer and academic before joining the court -- does not enjoy the wealth of big-firm practitioners. During his confirmation proceeding in 2003, the judge reported a net worth of $457,000, with more than half of that in a retirement account. Bybee, 55, also has four children.

A Westlaw search shows that Bybee recused himself from the only three published cases involving Mahoney's firm since 2007; the last time Bybee presided over a matter where Latham was involved was in 2004. In an e-mail Thursday, Mahoney said Bybee has recused himself from Latham cases, but offered no further comment on his case. The Obama administration released the memos Thursday to meet a deadline in open records litigation brought by the American Civil Liberties Union. Its decision came after what other published reports have described as a fierce battle within the administration, with Attorney General Eric Holder and White House counsel Gregory Craig pushing for release, and CIA Director Leon Panetta resisting.

Bybee's August 2002 memo notes that his legal opinions are based on the CIA's description of the interrogation techniques it sought permission for in July of 2002. "As we understand it," Bybee wrote, "when the waterboard is used, the subject's body responds as if the subject were drowning -- even though the subject may be well aware that he is in fact not drowning. You have informed us that this procedure does not inflict actual physical harm. Thus, although the subject may experience the fear or panic associated with the feeling of drowning, the waterboard does not inflict physical pain." Bybee's successors withdrew portions of his legal analysis. But Obama also made public Thursday a set of memos written by then-OLC chief Steven Bradbury in 2005 that reinstated some of that reasoning.


Ex-Latham Partner Pleads to Federal Fraud Scheme 
Ex-Latham Partner Pleads to Fraud Charge
The New York Law Journal by Anthony Lin - March 31, 2008

A former partner at Latham & Watkins pleaded guilty Friday to defrauding both clients and his own firm by charging them more than $300,000 in personal or false expenses. Samuel A. Fishman, a mergers and acquisition specialist in Latham's New York office from 1993 to 2005, was designated billing partner for a number of firm clients. According to prosecutors at the Southern District U.S. Attorney's Office, Mr. Fishman, 51, used his position to carry out a fraudulent scheme over the course of several years. Responsible for supervising and approving invoices sent to clients, Mr. Fishman added to the bills a number of inappropriate items, mischaracterizing them as charges for photocopying or express mail. He also fraudulently sought reimbursement from his firm for a number of personal expenses he claimed were for business. The U.S. Attorney's Office did not identify Latham as Mr. Fishman's firm in a criminal information filed with the guilty plea, nor was the firm's name mentioned in court yesterday afternoon when Mr. Fishman entered his plea to one count of mail fraud. But in a statement yesterday, the firm acknowledged Mr. Fishman as a former partner and said his misconduct had come to light in 2005. Latham "immediately acted to protect our clients fully, and disclosed the matter to appropriate law enforcement authorities," said David Gordon, Latham's New York managing partner. "Mr. Fishman resigned from the firm at the time the issues were discovered. Since that time, we have cooperated fully with the investigation." In announcing Mr. Fishman's guilty plea, prosecutors noted that the firm had reimbursed its clients hundreds of thousands of dollars that had been fraudulently charged. A firm spokesman yesterday declined to identify the clients defrauded by Mr. Fishman.

The criminal information said Mr. Fishman's clients were in the banking, utilities, telecommunications and entertainment industries. He has previously acted as lead counsel for companies including movie theater chain AMC Entertainment Inc. and JPMorgan Partners, the private equity arm of JPMorgan Chase & Co. Accompanied at yesterday's hearing by defense lawyer Jack Litman of Litman, Asche & Goiella, Mr. Fishman expressed remorse to Southern District Judge Victor Marrero. "I am very sorry for what I did," he told the judge. Mr. Fishman's sentencing is scheduled for June 27. The mail fraud charge carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. Mr. Fishman also has agreed to forfeit $350,000 in ill-gotten wealth. He also faces likely disbarment. A number of major firms have had to deal in recent years with fraud by partners, though most instances have resulted in disbarment or other disciplinary sanction as opposed to criminal prosecution. In 2006, former WilmerHale intellectual property partner William P. DiSalvatore resigned from the bar after admitting to a litany of misconduct, including falsifying expense reports and assigning associates to perform "pro bono" work for friends and family. He claimed more than $109,000 in false personal expense. (NYLJ, Aug. 14, 2006) Willkie Farr & Gallagher and the former Kronish Lieb Weiner & Hellman are two other firms that have also terminated partners for fraudulently seeking reimbursement for personal expenses. (NYLJ, July, 31, 2006 and June 19, 2002)

In most such cases, including that of Mr. Fishman, the defrauded amounts have been small compared to what the perpetrators earn as partners. Last month, Latham said it had profits per partner of $2.3 million in 2007. Steven Lubet, a legal ethics professor at Northwestern University School of Law, said he always found it "incredible" that highly paid partners would resort to fraud. He said he could only imagine that such people were overspending trying to emulate the lifestyles of those they represented. "The clients have that kind of money, the lawyers don't," said Mr. Lubet. "Sometimes, lawyers decide they want to live like their clients and that extra money has to come from somewhere." Perhaps the most well-known case of a lawyer bilking his clients and firm was Webster Hubbell, the former associate attorney general under President Bill Clinton. Mr. Hubbell was forced to resign his position in 1994 after his former partners at Arkansas' Rose Law Firm discovered billing irregularities. He later pleaded guilty to fraudulently charging almost $500,000 for personal expenses and legal work never actually performed. He served 16 months in prison. - Anthony Lin can be reached at Additional reporting by Mark Hamblett.

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Let Your Voice Be Heard by NY's Judiciary Committee

Contact Information for Members of the New York State Judiciary Committee

Senator John Sampson, Chair of the New York State Senate Judiciary Committee has announced important hearings. Please tell Senator Sampson and his committee members what you think!!

NYS Committee Members Email Addresses:,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

List of Names on NYS Judiciary Committee

Senator John L. Sampson, Chairman

Committee Members:

Senator George Onorato
Senator Eric Schneiderman
Senator Ruth Hassell-Thompson
Senator Ruben Diaz
Senator Jeff Klein
Senator Eric Adams
Senator Pedro Espada, Jr.
Senator Neil D. Breslin
Senator Martin Malave Dilan
Senator Diane J. Savino
Senator Bill Perkins
Senator George D. Maziarz
Senator John A. DeFrancisco
Senator Dale Volker
Senator Stephen M. Saland
Senator Kenneth P. LaValle
Senator John J. Bonacic
Senator George H. Winner, Jr.
Senator Michael F. Nozzolio
Senator Andrew J. Lanza
Senator Michael Ranzenhofer

Tim Spotts, Esq. (Committee Counsel)
Room 506 LOB
Albany, New York 12247
518-455-2788 tel
518-426-6806 fax

LIST OF FACSIMILE NUMBERS (updated 1/26/09):

718-726-2036 - 518-426-6929
518-426-6976 - 607-732-2832 - 607-776-5185


Senator John L. Sampson
9114 Flatlands Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11236
Tel: (718) 649-7653
Fax: (718) 649-7661

506 Legislative Office Building
Albany, NY 12247
Tel: (518) 455-2788
Fax: (518) 426-6806

Senator George Onorato
28-11 Astoria Blvd. Long Island City, NY 11102 Tel: (718) 545-9706  Fax: (718) 726-2036 
Albany Office
315 Legislative Office Building, Albany, NY 12247 Tel: (518) 455-3486  Fax: (518) 426-6929

Senator Eric Schneiderman
District Office
Office of State Senator Eric T. Schneiderman
80 Bennett Avenue, Ground Floor
New York, NY 10033
Tel: (212) 928-5578
Fax: (212) 928-0396

Albany Office
Office of State Senator Eric T. Schneiderman
711B Legislative Office Building
Albany, NY 12247
Tel: (518) 455-2041
Fax: (518) 426-6847

Senator Ruth Hassell-Thompson
District Office
767 East Gunhill Road
Bronx, NY 10467
Tel: (718) 547-8854
Fax: (718) 515-2718

Albany Office
613 Legislative Office Building
Albany, NY 12247
Tel: (518) 455-2061
Fax: (518) 426-6998

Senator Ruben Diaz
District Office
1733 East 172nd Street
Bronx, NY 10472
Tel: (718) 991-3161
Fax: (718) 991-0309

Albany Office
304 Legislative Office Building
Albany, NY 12247
Tel: (518) 455-2511
Fax: (518) 426-6945

Senator Jeff Klein
Office Locations:
Legislative Office Building: Room 313 Albany, New York 12247; District Office: 3713 East Tremont Ave Bronx, NY 10465 Telephone: 718-822-2049, 518-455-3595
Toll Free - (800) 718-2039 Fax: 718-822-2321, Fax: 518-426-6887

Senator Eric Adams
District Office: 572 Flatbush Avenue, Brooklyn, New York 11225; Phone: (718) 284-4700; Fax: (718) 282-3585

Albany Office:
Legislative Office Building, Room 413 Albany, New York 12247; Phone: (518) 455-2431; Fax: (518) 426-6856

Senator Pedro Espada, Jr.
33rd Senate District Bronx area
420 State Capitol Bldg.,
Albany NY 12247
518-455-3395 tel
518-426-6858 fax

Senator Neil D. Breslin
Capitol Building, Room 414
Albany, NY 12247
Tel: (518) 455-2225
Fax: (518) 426-6807

Senator Martin Malave Dilan
District Office
786 Knickerbocker Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11207
Tel: (718) 573-1726
Fax: (718) 573-2407

Legislative Office
606 Legislative Office Building
Albany, NY 12247
Tel: (518) 455-2177
Fax: (518) 426-6947

Senator Diane J. Savino
Albany Office
Senator Diane J. Savino
406 Legislative Office Building
Albany, New York 12247
Tel: (518) 455-2437
Fax: (518) 426-6943

District Office
Senator Diane J. Savino
36 Richmond Terrace, Suite 112
Staten Island, New York 10301
Tel: (718) 727-9406
Fax: (718) 727-9426

Senator Bill Perkins
District Office: 163 West 125th Street, Suite 912, New York, NY 10027; Phone: (212) 222-7315  Albany Office
Legislative Office Building, Room 617; Albany, NY 12247; Phone: (518) 455-2441

Senator George D. Maziarz
Albany Office Room 811,
Legislative Office Building, Albany, NY 12247_(518) 455-2024__District Office_2578 Niagara Falls Boulevard_Suite 600_Wheatfield, NY 14304_(716) 731-8740__Satellite Office_SUNY College at Brockport, 350 New Campus Drive, Brockport, NY, NY 14420 - (585) 637-5800;

Senator John A. DeFrancisco
Albany Office_Room 307
Legislative Office Building_Albany, NY 12247_(518) 455-3511

Syracuse District Office_800 State Office Building _333 East Washington Street_Syracuse, NY 13202_(315) 428-7632

Senator Dale Volker
Albany Office:_Room 427 Capitol Bldg._Albany, New York 12247_518.455.3471__Main District Office:_4729 Transit Road, Suite #5_Depew, New York 14043_716.656.8544_716-656-8961 fax

Warsaw District Office:_143 North Main Street - Room 103_Warsaw, New York 14569_585-786-5048

Senator Stephen M. Saland
Stephen M. Saland
41st Senate District

Albany Office_Room 708
Legislative Office Building_Albany, NY 12247_(518) 455-2411
Fax: (518) 426-6920

Dutchess County_3 Neptune Road/ Suite A19B_Poughkeepsie, NY 12601_(845) 463-0840/
Fax (845) 463-3438

Columbia County_389 Fairview Ave_Hudson, NY 12534_(518) 828-1529
Fax (518) 822-8129

Senator Kenneth P. LaValle
Albany Office_Room 806
Legislative Office Building_Albany, NY 12247_(518) 455-3121
518-426-6826 fax

District Office_325 Middle Country Road, Suite 4_Selden, NY 11784_(631) 696-6900
631-696-2307 fax

Senator John J. Bonacic
Albany Office_Room 815 Legislative Office Building_Albany, NY 12247_(518) 455-3181

District Offices_201 Dolson Avenue, Suite F_Middletown, NY 10940_(845) 344 3311
111 Main Street_Delhi, NY 13753_(607) 746-6675

Senator George H. Winner, Jr.
53rd Senate District
Albany Office_Room 814
Legislative Office Building_
Albany, NY 12247_Phone: (518) 455-2091_Fax: (518) 426-6976_
Elmira District Office_228 Lake Street _Box 588_Elmira, NY 14902_Phone: (607) 732-2765_Fax: (607) 732-2832_
Bath District Office_105 East Steuben Street_Bath, New York 14810_Phone: (607)

Senator Michael F. Nozzolio
Albany Office_Room 409 Legislative Office Building_Albany, NY 12247_(518)455-2366
Fax (518) 426-6953

District Office_119 Fall Street_Seneca Falls, NY 13148_888-568-9816
Fax (315)568-2090

Senator Andrew J. Lanza
Albany Office
947 LOB
Albany, NY 12247
(518) 455-3215
(518) 426-6852 (Fax)

District Office
3845 Richmond Ave.
Suite 2A
Staten Island, NY 10312
(718) 984-4073
984-4455 (Fax)

Senator Michael Ranzenhofer
Albany Office
Room 310 Legislative Office Building
Albany, NY 12247
(518) 455-3161

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Bribe-Taking Judge Haunts Justice 23 Years Later

23 years after judicial misconduct, ex-gang leader freed
A bribe-taking judge sentenced Nathson Fields to die in 1986. In 2009: 'Not guilty'
The Chicago Tribune by Matthew Walberg - April 9, 2009

The courtroom was silent Wednesday when Circuit Judge Vincent Gaughan acquitted Nathson Fields of murder, a quiet final act for an infamous murder case involving judicial corruption unprecedented even for Chicago's sordid history of graft and greed. Years ago, a trial judge had taken a $10,000 bribe to fix this very case for Fields, a convicted killer and former El Rukn gang leader. Wednesday, when Gaughan swiftly acquitted him of the gang hit, the 55-year-old Fields slowly walked over to his family, hugging his brother, Nathaniel, whose tears streamed down his cheeks. "I love you so much," Nathaniel Fields said as he clasped his brother in a bear hug. "Damn!" The result was starkly different from 1986 when Fields first went on trial for the double murder.

Judge Thomas J. Maloney, a tough former boxer with a reputation as a law-and-order advocate during 13 years in Criminal Court, pocketed a $10,000 bribe to acquit Fields and a co-defendant. But during the trial, Maloney sensed authorities were onto the fix and handed the bribe money back to a corrupt lawyer at a side door to his courtroom, federal prosecutors contended. The judge then convicted Fields and co-defendant Earl Hawkins of both murders and sentenced them to death. Maloney was convicted and served more than a dozen years in prison for fixing three murder trials in all, but he died at 83 last October a few months after his release from prison, still defiant in his claims of innocence. His 1993 guilty verdict grew out of a federal sting code-named Operation Greylord that led to the conviction of 15 corrupt judges, but Maloney's crimes were unprecedented. He is the only Cook County judge ever convicted of rigging murder cases.

After Maloney's conviction, Fields was granted a new trial in 1998, but he remained incarcerated until another former Death Row inmate, Aaron Patterson, bailed him out in 2003. Fields spent nearly two decades behind bars, including more than 11 years on Death Row. In recent years, the case against Fields has languished in the courts. His retrial came more than a decade after his first conviction was overturned because of Maloney's corruption. Prosecutors wanted to put on testimony of Fields' alleged involvement in Maloney's bribery, but Gaughan blocked that evidence, prompting a lengthy, unsuccessful appeal by prosecutors. In another key development, Hawkins flipped on his former El Rukn cohort, agreeing to testify against Fields in exchange for a plea to a lesser crime. The two murder victims—Jerome "Fuddy" Smith and Talman Hickman, both reputed members of the Black Gangster Disciples' Goon Squad—were gunned down in 1984 outside a public housing development in the 700 block of East 39th Street. Fields had already finished serving about a dozen years in prison for an unrelated murder conviction when the double slaying occurred.

The bench trial before Gaughan began a quarter century later—this February—and was held off-and-on since then with lengthy breaks. After listening to closing arguments Wednesday, the judge immediately issued his verdict from the bench. He said he found Hawkins, the state's key witness, unbelievable. During the trial, Fields' attorneys hammered at Hawkins for once admitting he would say anything to get off Death Row. But Gaughan didn't hold that against Hawkins, saying that only "Mother Teresa and a few other people would say they wouldn't lie to get off of Death Row." More important to Gaughan was Hawkins' admission to his involvement in the murders of 15 to 20 people during his days as a general in the powerful El Rukn street gang. "If someone has such disregard for human life, what regard will he have for his oath?" Gaughan said. "I find him incredible." Prosecutors declined to comment after the verdict, but Fields talked about his future plans. He said he hopes to start a construction company with Patterson, despite the fact that Patterson is serving a 30-year sentence in federal prison for gun and drug convictions. "I feel like my prayers have been answered," Fields said. "It's been 24 years of this ordeal for my family and my friends, and now with it coming to an end, it's like a dream come true." Fields said he may go on a vacation. "Somewhere on the West Coast," he said. "I've never seen an ocean, never seen any mountains. I'm kind of behind on that kind of stuff.",/span>

Report: NYS Court System in Sad Crisis, Desperate

Judicial Reassignments Urged To Address Family Court 'Crisis'
The New York Law Journal by Mark Fass - April 27, 2009

A report released today by the Fund for Modern Courts calls for reassigning to Family Court more judges from other courts and appointing a new statewide deputy chief administrative judge in order to address what it calls a "crisis" in Family Court's resources and procedures. "The lack of adequate resources in New York State's Family Court presents a most difficult task for the judiciary, but it is a challenge that needs to be met," the non-partisan organization's chairman, Victor A. Kovner, said in a statement accompanying the 22-page report. "Family Court is the saddest consequence of a poorly designed court system that is in desperate need of restructuring." The report, entitled "Crisis in Family Court - A Call for Action," was initiated last summer in order to brief the successor to Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye, who retired after 15 years in the post.

Jonathan Lippman, who was confirmed as the new chief judge in February, received an advance copy of the report earlier this month. In an interview Friday, Chief Judge Lippman repeatedly emphasized his "full support" for the task force's findings and recommendations. He also stressed the "enormous strides" Family Court has made over the last decade, including progress in such areas as adoption, protective proceedings, treatment courts and achieving "one family, one judge." "The biggest infusion to the court system has been to Family Court," Judge Lippman said. The Office of Court Administration intends to continue reassigning judges from other courts to Family Court, Judge Lippman added. An OCA spokesman said such reassignments have resulted in a net increase of nine judges over the last several years. "But you're robbing Peter to pay Paul," the chief judge said. "It would be far better to be able to get what the court [system] needs, and we're going to press that case with the Legislature." There currently are 149 permanent Family Court judges statewide. The court system last year unsuccessfully sought 39 additional judgeships. Judge Lippman said his one "quibble" with the recommendations - whether to appoint a new administrative judge - was simply a disagreement over "nomenclature."

In the next few weeks, the OCA will announce a reorganization involving a "statewide leadership team," which will serve the same purpose without adding a "new layer of administration," the chief judge said. "A title is only part of the equation," Judge Lippman said. The OCA reorganization will be "consistent with the recommendations, [but] we'll be cutting down on the administration. These times demand it." Judge Lippman also called the question of whether the Family Court is in "crisis" an issue of semantics. "It's a court that demands attention," Judge Lippman said. "I agree totally with that characterization. Whether one would call it 'in crisis' is another issue. I accept the call for attention to the Family Court." The Fund for Modern Courts appointed the eight-person task force last summer. Over the next four months, the members interviewed more than 35 judges, attorneys and public policy advocates, among others. The task force also held two focus groups: one upstate and one in Manhattan. Attorneys from Davis Polk & Wardwell also participated in the interviews, provided research and created an appendix of relevant past Family Court reports.

'Call for Action'

Citing such disparate, ongoing and intertwined problems as overwhelming case loads, unmanageable calendars and burdensome administrative responsibilities, the task force concluded that the Family Court is facing a "crisis," and termed the report a "call for action." Family Court judges average 2,120 dispositions a year, the task force reported, compared to 525 for Supreme Court judges in civil matters, 222 for Supreme and County Court judges in felony matters and 63 for Court of Claims judges. "As a result of the unrealistically large caseload in Family Court coupled with the lack of sufficient judges, court calendars are often unmanageable," the report states.  It continues: "The Task Force fully understands that facing the ongoing crisis and emergency now present in the New York State Family Courts presents a most difficult task, but it is a challenge that needs to be met. This is especially true while we are facing unprecedented negative economic conditions that will most certainly further flood the already inadequate resources of Family Court." The task force broke its recommendations into six general areas: administrative leadership, judicial resources, case and courtroom management, judicial education and support, resources for litigants and incorporating the best use of technology. In addition to appointing a statewide deputy chief administrative judge for Family Court, specific recommendations include:

•reassigning more judges from Supreme, Civil and Criminal court to Family Court;
•proving case coordinators to review cases;
•assigning "up-front judges" to hear preliminary matters;
•establishing self-help centers;
•implementing a comprehensive data-collection.

The task force has already met with Judge Lippman, and both sides said on Friday that they concur on all the key points, including the need for administrative reform and oversight. The task force's chair, Catherine J. Douglass, said, "I personally have no reason to second guess [Judge Lippman's] way of getting the job done. The real point is that this is an enormous job and that it needs the requisite focus and skills and plan, however the chief judge decides to make it happen." Mr. Kovner, Modern Courts' chair, said the organization's attention will now return to a number of its other, long-term goals, such as judicial pay and court restructuring. "We're hoping for the adoption of the (judicial compensation) legislation," Mr. Kovner said. "Also on our agenda is a constitutional amendment for court restructuring, [including] a Family Court merger (within a single Supreme Court). It's a cost saver. It's something we've been pushing. But the failure to deal with judicial compensation stops so many other things."

Friday, April 24, 2009

Fiasco Continues With Ex-Lawyer Who Brought Down NYS Judge

Ex-lawyer Adams jailed briefly in DWI coverup
“I hatched a selfish and reprehensible scheme. ... My actions were inexcusable.”—Anne E. Adams
The Buffalo News by Gene Warner and Matt Gryta - April 24, 2009

Anne E. Adams emerged as a shamed figure in a basement courtroom downtown Thursday morning. The former prosecutor and later defense attorney stood tall at her own sentencing, but with her head bowed for virtually the entire 23 minutes, choosing to speak only in monosyllables. Then she was led away in handcuffs to spend 15 days in the county jail, her punishment for trying to cover up her drunken-driving arrest last September.

But Adams’ unusual case took another strange twist Thursday afternoon, when a senior state appellate judge granted her a stay of sentencing, giving her attorney 120 days to appeal the sentence. She left the back entrance of the Erie County Holding Center shortly before 4 p. m., joined by three friends and relatives who tried to shield her from being photographed. “I’ve never encountered a case quite like this,” Adams’ attorney, James P. Harrington, said earlier in court, referring to his almost 40 years as a criminal defense attorney. “I’m not sure if it’s more of a Greek tragedy, a Shakespearean play or a John Grisham novel.” Whether Adams serves a day in jail won’t be known for months, but the sight of her being led away in handcuffs showed how far she had fallen, from her roles as a longtime Erie County assistant district attorney, popular University at Buffalo Law School figure, mentor to many young female attorneys and a possible judicial candidate as recently as last summer. In the last few months, Adams lost her license to practice law in New York State and was fired from her part-time supervisory job at UB Law School. Then she went to jail, if only for six hours. “She’s humiliated. She’s disgraced,” Erie County District Attorney Frank A. Sedita III said after the sentencing. “She no longer can be a lawyer. . . . She lost her job at the university. She’s publicly humiliated. And on top of that, she’s going to jail. I think that sends a strong message.”

A few hours later, Senior Appellate Justice Samuel L. Green granted Adams, 46, the stay of sentence, after a half-hour session in his Buffalo chambers. Green acted on the challenge by Harrington, who called the 15-day sentence unduly harsh and questioned the legality of the multilevel sentencing imposed Thursday morning. Sedita wasn’t pleased with the release, emphasizing that his office “adamantly opposed” the stay of sentence. “In our opinion, she has no legitimate appealable issue,” Sedita said. “She pleaded guilty, and as a condition of her plea, she waived her rights to an appeal.” Harrington disagreed.

“We would argue there is a sentencing issue that’s not covered by the waiver of appeal,” Harrington said without elaborating. Earlier in the day, after saying he was moved by many letters of support for Adams, acting State Supreme Court Justice Michael F. Griffith quoted the former attorney’s own words before sentencing her. “Judge, I hatched a selfish and reprehensible scheme subverting everything I hold sacred in the law,” she stated in her letter. “My actions were inexcusable.” “I think that says it all,” the judge said.

Griffith, in his sentencing remarks, addressed both those who might think the sentence was too soft and those who would consider it too harsh. “The public, lawyers included, need to be aware that if they subvert the laws of the state, like you did, there has to be punishment,” Griffith said, addressing Adams. “As much as I feel for your situation, I can’t get away from that.” Besides the 15 days, Griffith sentenced Adams to three years’ probation, continued mental health treatment, 100 hours of community service, continued drug and alcohol testing, and attendance at a DWI Impact Panel. Griffith, a Wyoming County Court judge assigned to the case in March, also included two unusual measures in his multiple sentencing provisions, ordering Adams to write two “sincere letters of apology,” both within the next 20 days. One must be sent to the Town of Hamburg officers who originally arrested her, for comments she made about them that were “totally a lie,” the judge said. The other letter must be sent to the county bar association’s newspaper, Bulletin, so the legal community can see “what got you to this stage.” Other lawyers said they could not remember such letters being ordered as part of other sentencing provisions.

Adams had pleaded guilty in February to three misdemeanors: driving while intoxicated, offering a false statement for filing and attempted tampering with physical evidence linked to her DWI arrest in the Town of Hamburg on Sept. 2. She is not the only professional who has been disgraced by her actions. After her DWI charge, based on a 0.19 percent blood-alcohol level, Adams had tried to avoid prosecution by getting a falsified blood-alcohol test and a statement from a judge that she was not intoxicated at the time. In an attempt to convince authorities that she wasn’t drunk that evening, Adams persuaded Dr. Tarik Elibol, her primary- care physician in Kenmore, to draw a sample of her blood the next day. She also asked him to falsely specify on the tube that the blood was drawn at 10 p. m. the previous day, just hours after her arrest, according to court records. Sedita chose not to prosecute Elibol because “he came clean and came clean early,” the district attorney said. In February, State Supreme Court Justice Joseph G. Makowski resigned in disgrace while facing a state judicial investigation and a potential grand jury investigation of statements he made in an affidavit in the Adams case. Makowski, in that Sept. 11 affidavit, repeatedly stated that nothing in Adams’ behavior suggested that she could not drive home safely from a downtown Buffalo restaurant on the night she was arrested.

In the courtroom Thursday morning, prosecutor Bethany A. Solek, who studied under Adams at UB Law School, told Griffith that Adams had made the choice to drive in a “highly intoxicated” condition on a busy road before manipulating others to subvert justice. “Ms. Adams solicited others, including a physician and a judge, to make false statements,” Solek said. Harrington then told the court that Adams does not minimize those actions or blame anyone else. “She’s profoundly ashamed, and rightfully so,” he added. But Harrington also cited the emotional and psychological toll on Adams, to the point that a person who has made her living as a wordsmith wasn’t able to speak to the court. “Her depression and decompensation are such that she finds it almost unbearable to face people who love her,” the defense attorney said. Adams, an Angola resident who was dressed in a black suit and white open-collar blouse, even had trouble facing the judge. Before sentencing, Griffith asked Adams whether she wanted to comment. “No,” she replied, as she continued gazing at the floor. That wasn’t the only monosyllabic answer. After the sentencing, when Harrington asked for a one-day delay on Adams’ jailing, the judge sternly said, “No.” Uniformed court officials handcuffed her and took her from the courtroom at 10:01 a. m., before a higher judge’s stay opened the jail doors for her about six hours later. and

Corrupt Judicial Ethics Oversight Fuels Texas-Styled Impeachment Options

Texas House panel will hear testimony Monday on bill to impeach Justice Sharon Keller
The Dallas Morning News by Bruce Tomaso - April 23, 2009

A Texas House committee will hear testimony Monday on a bill that could lead to the impeachment of Sharon Keller, chief justice of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. Keller, a Republican and a former Dallas County prosecutor, has come under fire from death-penalty opponents and others. She's accused of refusing to allow the court to remain open after 5 p.m. on Sept. 25, 2007, to accept a last-minute appeal from a death-row inmate. He was executed hours later. State Rep. Lon Burnam, D-Fort Worth, has introduced legislation that would create a special House committee to consider Keller's impeachment. His bill accuses her of "gross neglect of duty and conducting her official duties with willful disregard for human life." The justice has denied that she did anything improper. If Burnam's bill passed, and if the House found cause for impeachment, the judge would be tried before the Texas Senate. Keller also faces ethics charges by the Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct stemming from her role in the court's refusal to accept the inmate's late plea. And the Texas Ethics Commission is looking into a complaint that she did not fully disclose her extensive real estate holdings in filings with the commission. Keller is the daughter of Jack Keller, who operates Keller's Drive-In, the popular hamburger restaurant on East Northwest Highway in  Dallas.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Dripping Blood Brings Call For AG Andrew Cuomo's Leadership

The Blood Flows from The Big Apple, Mr. Cuomo
by Franklin N. Brady - April 23, 2009

We posted a story ten months ago, "AG Andrew Cuomo Planning Amnesty for State Judges and Lawyers" (June 3, 2008), based upon information from a well-placed, inside source at the New York Attorney General's office. We recently asked that source about the current status of Attorney General Cuomo's 'Amnesty Program.'   The source's eyes rolled, followed by a frowned, head-nodding, and a simple, "who the hell knows." These are very stressful times, Mr. Cuomo, and based, largely, upon financial crimes and failed oversight. The need for your immediate lead is urgent.  

French financier, Rene-Thierry Magon de la Villehuchet, sliced his wrists in December of 2008 after losing his own fortune and $1 billion of his clients' investments, all entrusted to Madoff.  Bill Foxton, a 30-year British army veteran, shot himself in February of 2009 after losing everything, thanks to the failed oversight of Madoff. And just this week, a Queens lawyer murdered his family and killed himself, apparently over a financial crime that lingered undetected until recently. 

There is little doubt that the blood will continue to flow. We need you to do something, Mr. Cuomo- something big. Please re-visit your Amnesty Plan.  We believe those within your own office will be the first to come forward.  Countless statewide Assistant Attorney Generals have themselves witnessed outrageous crimes by state employees and other 'protected' individuals, but their direct superiors within your office have directed those lawful-sworn prosecutors to follow an improper course, incredibly defending those very criminals they should be holding accountable- all on the public's dime.  Similarly, there are countless state employees who have witnessed the white-washing misdeeds of the court's Inspector General, Sherril R. Spatz.    

Let's get together, Mr. Cuomo. No assistants or middlemen- they've done enough damage. We'd like to show you just 25 of the most outrageous crimes we know about and that have, we believe, been hidden from from your eyes. The people of New York need you, sir, now more than ever. 

All the best, 
Franklyn N. Brady
347-632-9775 tel

Here's the old story:

AG Andrew Cuomo Planning Amnesty for State Judges and Lawyers
Originally Posted Tuesday, June 3, 2008
WOW !!

Well, well. Here's another reason why we all like New York's Attorney General, Andrew Cuomo. Inside sources reveal that various plans have been drafted where the New York AG will provide a statewide Amnesty Program in an effort to clean up the systemic corruption throughout the state court system.

"The Amnesty 'window' will be narrow," says the source. "Andrew's pretty serious about a real shake up, and he will not give state workers, including judges, more than 60 days to 'come clean.'" The plan, dubbed "CAP" (Cuomo's Amnesty Program) by AG lawyers, is said to specifically include all attorneys admitted to practice in New York, whether or not they are state employed. "Heads will role once the Amnesty Program ends," adds the source.

Below, we re-post our Thursday, June 14, 2007, "Memo #1 to Chief Administrative Judge Pfau"

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Memo #1 to Chief Administrative Judge Pfau...

On June 14th we began the collaborative process of memoralizing our constructive thoughts to Chief Administrative Judge Pfau. And continuing on a regular basis, we will send Judge Pfau a collection of suggestions intent on improving our courts.

**Below is FINAL MEMO #1 sent to Judge Pfau June 18, 2007**

Also, included in our memos will be various subjects, including our request for updates as to issues addressed in this forum. Your constructive comments will be sent along with the memo. In commenting on this post, please keep it clean and constructive; vent, etc. on other posts, please. Our Memos are meant to HELP the court system for everyone. (this is a work in progress, and information is taken from positive comments and suggestions emailed to us)


To: Hon. Chief Administrative Judge Ann T. Pfau
Date: Monday, June 18, 2007

Dear Honorable Chief Administrative Judge Pfau:

Every law-abiding and honest attorney, court employee and judge, has cheered your recent appointment as the New York State Chief Administrative Judge for the Courts. And your presence at the top brings a sense of hope to every honest citizen, who looks forward to
overall court reform, and the restoration of integrity to the New York Court system. We urge, and support, your immediate action, and we respectfully present suggestions for consideration:

1. Amnesty for Judges, Lawyers & Court Employees

SUGGESTION: Establish a 60-day Amnesty period during which judges, attorneys (court employed and private) and court personnel may come forward with information regarding improper activity, either known to them or with which they have been involved. (It's the only way to see any true reform.)

2. Direct Access to the Offices of the Chief Administrative Judge

SUGGESTION: Establish Public access computers in every court in the state, allowing for direct communication to the Chief Judge's Administrative Offices, so as to provide top administrators (above district levels) with timely information from the public concerning
suggestions and/or concerns.

3. Complete Court Employee Accountability

SUGGESTION: The name of all court employees should be easy to ascertain: name tags, id numbers, or the public posting of all employee photos with identifying name and position/title.

We appreciate your consideration of the herein respectfully submitted suggestions.

...more to follow... ### Posted by Corrupt Courts Administrator June 14, 2007 at 5:20 PM


huh? said...
Amnesty, huh? It just might work. Devil in the details, but workable. Can you imagine what would surface? June 14, 2007 7:25 PM

Anonymous said...
Only Amnesty would help the honest judges and court personnel, who would like to speak up but are afraid, very afraid- and for good reason. Consider less than 60 days, though. Maybe 30. Instill the fear of God in them... June 14, 2007 8:51 PM

what happened to said...
Please ask Judge Pfau what the status is of the investigation of Westchester County surrogate lawyer Jody Keltz who lives in a Scasdale house sold to her from an estate. (Story post a month or so ago on this blog) thank you. June 14, 2007 8:55 PM

one who judges said...
A court cleansing in needed. Yes to Amnesty. June 14, 2007 10:48 PM

suggesting said...
SUGGESTION: Identify Involved People - The name of the person(s) who in any way participates in the writing of a decision, order, etc. should be publically identified, and their name added after the judges signature, or in some other way made known. (this will clean up a lot of "bad" decisions, and lighten the load at the appellate level) June 15, 2007 7:00 AM

An insider said...
I like this, this is a good idea. June 15, 2007 8:46 AM

Anonymous said...
Clearly we have many people on this blog that really care about this subject, so lets get some good suggestions people. Also take the time to go through all the other comments contained on this blog, it would be beneficial. June 15, 2007 9:43 AM

Anonymous said...
I also second the Jody Keltz matter. This needs a full investigation. June 15, 2007 10:39 AM

Anonymous said...
I third the request for an update on the Jody Keltz "grab-the-old-dead-lady's-house" transaction. June 15, 2007 4:41 PM

Anonymous said...
The Manhattan Surrogate's had their law clerk's create a law firm that then became the law firm for the public administrator and they got away with it. How much money was involved? This shows that the system is broken. June 15, 2007 7:55 PM

A fiduciary victim said...
The impunity with which the banks and judges/attorneys (hired minions) act is a tavesty of JUSTICE which must be righted. June 15, 2007 8:42 PM

Anonymous said...
Please provide more info about the law firm created by the Manhattan it still in business? June 15, 2007 8:45 PM

New York County Surrogate Victim said...
All the Surrogate's Courts are corrupt and should be shutdown. The Trust & Estate Bar should be put out of business and jailed. June 15, 2007 10:28 PM

A fly on the wall said...
How was Jody Keltz an attorney at the Westchester Surrogate's Court permitted to get a home from an Estate in that same Court from the Executor - Bank of New York? June 16, 2007 12:09 AM

Anonymous said...
SUGGESTION: Make every court employee (including judges) anonymously answer a questionnaire with 2 items: (1) What at the five biggest problems within or with the court system? and (2) What are five specific solutions to each of those problems. Do not mention individuals by name, this questionnaire is about the system itself. ALL results should be made public for further comment, etc. June 16, 2007 6:40 AM

Ethical Disclosure Forms Reader said...
Make the Ethical Disclosure Forms that are required to be filed every May by Judges and Court personnel easier to obtain. Why not put them all on the web so that everyone can see them. To even look at them or obtain hard copies are onerous at present for the public. June 16, 2007 10:46 AM

Anonymous said...
I fully agree that Ethical Disclosure Forms should REALLY be made available to the public by putting them on the internet. (I gave up trying to get them because the process was so weird and not user friendly) June 17, 2007 10:31 AM

Anonymous said...
I heard from an inside source that nice-guy, sell your soul & mother for a buck ex-judge Gerald Garson is finally talking....about EVERYTHING he knows... they can't shut him up.... he's pissed the "brothers and sisters in black robes" turned on him and ignored him in his time of need. And boy is he talking, WOW! Talk of 'round the clock protection for this bum too!

The babbling by this jackass Garson should start a domino effect that should change everything.

Have a great summer, those of you who corrupted our court system: lawyers, judges, court employees, etc. ----- you're next. June 17, 2007 8:19 PM

Anonymous said...
Judge Plau why don't you put all court documents on the web so that everyone can see everything at any time? I hope you consider my suggest. June 19, 2007 10:54 AM

Anonymous said...
Don't hold you breath waiting for this chick (Pfau) to do anything. She's one of the good 'ole boys. June 23, 2007 1:55 PM

Anonymous said...
I second the suggestion to not hold your breath waiting for Judge Pfau to take action. June 24, 2007 2:36 PM

Anonymous said...
should I keep holding my breath??? June 26, 2007 1:47 PM

Anonymous said...
when's the next bunch of suggestions going to Pfau. she'll ignore those also! June 26, 2007 3:14 PM

Anonymous said...
I like the idea about putting all the court documents on the web so that everyone could see them, should I hold my breath Judge Pfau? June 29, 2007 8:34 PM

Anonymous said...
No word from Pfau, huh? What a shock! July 2, 2007 10:36 AM

nepotism said...
Judge Pfau what is the 'Nepotism Level' in the Judiciary? How many Judges et al. have their spouses, girl friends or other relatives on the defacto welfare dole?
Is this not a criminal act? July 14, 2007 12:00 AM

Anonymous said...
Judge Pfau at somepoint the Judical PT Barnums who think we're all suckers will have a surprise, the scam will not go on forever. July 17, 2007 9:36 AM

Anonymous said...
Hey, honey its all a scam, a con game and you know it. July 17, 2007 12:37 PM

a fly on the wall said...
Judge Pfau do you have any mud on your skirts? July 17, 2007 9:43 PM

end of old comments

Blog Archive

See Video of Senator John L. Sampson's 1st Hearing on Court 'Ethics' Corruption

The first hearing, held in Albany on June 8, 2009 hearing is on two videos:

               Video of 1st Hearing on Court 'Ethics' Corruption
               The June 8, 2009 hearing is on two videos:
               CLICK HERE TO SEE Part 1
               CLICK HERE TO SEE Part 2
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